What does it mean to be a Client-Centric Firm?

In a recent Forbes article, legal business consultant Mark Cohen deemed this the “age of the consumer.” Technology has empowered consumers across all industries, giving everyone access to more information on the products they buy and the people they hire than ever before, and reviews of nearly every service imaginable are right at their fingertips. Consumers are also emboldened by their ability to share their opinions, anecdotes and experiences widely with others, something that can easily work to the benefit or the detriment of your law firm. According to Cohen, “the (legal) industry is fixated on ‘innovation,’ not its outcome-customer satisfaction. We will know innovation has occurred when customer satisfaction is up and legal services are accessible not only to large companies but also to individuals and small businesses.”

As I wrote about previously, the digitalization of nearly everything has already occurred or will have occurred in the very near future. The digital age is what has spawned the age of the consumer, so customer service standards are at an all-time high. Leveraging technology to create greater customer satisfaction is increasingly becoming more critical, particularly in the legal profession. 

Exorbitant fees and less-than-transparent billing practices are common universal complaints from law-firm clients, but “bedside manner” is also high on the list of client concerns. A recent Above the Law article examined Yelp and other lawyer review sites, noting that lawyers tend to get fewer reviews than other businesses, so each review a lawyer receives can have a significant impact on the firm’s reputation. The article emphasized the importance of client communication for law firms, saying that clients “claim that no one picks up the phone or answers emails. Sometimes the phone line is disconnected. We all know that failure to communicate with a client can be a serious ethics violation. But in the age of the internet, this can also cost you business.” 

Building automated and consistent communication and other client-centric practices into your law practice clearly gives your firm a competitive advantage. And communication is a two-way street – it is incumbent upon law firms to ask their clients for feedback – to check in and ask how they are doing, and not just when the client’s case is resolved. Reverting back to the analogy of law firms focusing on a better bedside manner, communicating with clients regularly and providing them with an opportunity to tell you how you are doing helps to not only build a better relationship, but it also makes clients feel cared for and heard. At the 2017 Legal Marketing Association Southeast Conference (#LMASE17), “The panel of general counsel at LMASE17 each said that they are not asked enough by the law firms they regularly use to provide feedback and would welcome the opportunity to do so,” according to a follow-up article on the conference in JD Supra

Customer-centricity, however, is less about making sure that every client that works with your firm likes you. It is more about designing your firm and your firm’s operations so that the client’s needs are central. Moving to a more client-centric law firm model may mean examining all operations – from communication to the range of services you provide to costs – to ensure that what your firm offers serves the current needs of your main client base. 

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